All things geek – Returning to my wrestling roots

Matthew Lane • Jan 26, 2020 at 6:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — After all of the penetrating stare downs, untamed smack talk, and brutal slobberknockers, the Sullivan County War was finally over.

No, I’m not talking about a historic Civil War battle or the latest chicken sandwich fight. I’m referring to the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling event that took place on Jan. 18 at Sullivan Central High School.

It was a two-hour-plus, action-packed event in the Dickie Warren Dome before a blue-jeaned crowd of more than 700 wrestling fans. I saw people of all ages and all shapes and sizes, including quite a few kids and teens. I even brought one myself — my 13-year-old daughter — as well as my wrestling-loving father-in-law.

He wanted to see one of his favorite wrestlers of all time: WCW legend “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner, one of the three main superstars on Saturday’s card. The Big Bad Booty Daddy was accompanied by Buff “The Stuff” Bagwell and WWE Hall of Fame tag team champion (and current All Elite Wrestling producer) Billy Gunn.

During their heyday with WCW and the Monday Night War, both Steiner and Bagwell were routinely on television, oftentimes teaming up against their opponents. Steiner always cut great promos (even if his math was a little fuzzy) and I still remember to this day watching live as he turned on his brother Rick in the middle of the ring, joining up with the nefarious nWo.

As for Billy Gunn, he was tag team gold during his run in the WWE, joining forces with one-time opponent “Road Dogg” Jesse James to become the New Age Outlaws — a main staple of D-Generation X. The duo secured six tag team titles during their three-year reign.

James’ opening monologue to every match? Yup, I can still recite it.

To see these guys in action last week was truly a treat, and I believe many of the people in attendance would agree. Sullivan County Sheriff Jeff Cassidy, who worked with the promoter to bring the event to Blountville, voiced a similar opinion after the show.

“I enjoyed it myself. It was a family-oriented event. All of the spectators and everyone in attendance seemed to have a great time too,” Cassidy said. “It turned out to be a great event and I had a great time.”

In case you missed the advertisements in the lead-up, the event was a fundraiser for the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office. Cassidy said the Sullivan County War brought in more than $9,100, money that’ll go toward the SCSO’s community outreach programs.

So, how did the Sullivan County War come to be? Mid-Atlantic promoter and former professional wrestler Rik Nelson explained.

“I started wrestling for Jim Crockett Promotions back in 1986 when I got out of the Army. (Crockett) did (such events) way back in the day and I just took that formula and expanded on it somewhat,” Nelson said. “I work with law enforcement, a majority of the time with sheriff’s offices, and the events have good crowds, it’s good PR, it keeps the community involved and it goes over well. And it raises money for the local high schools and sheriff’s offices.”

Sounds like a win-win to me.

Nelson has reached out to other sheriff’s departments in Tennessee about holding similar events, but Cassidy was the first one to sign on. Hopefully, the Mid-Atlantic guys can return again, maybe next time with some different grapplers from the golden age of my wrestling fandom.

In case you didn’t know, I used to write a twice-a-month wrestling column for the Times News. I did so for about a decade, commenting on everything from the local independent wrestling scene to the big boys of sports entertainment.

It was something I thoroughly enjoyed, and I got a chance to interview a number of famous guys, including Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Eric Bischoff, Arn Anderson, Rob Van Dam and more. But as with all things, the column eventually came to an end. My interest in professional wrestling waned. I stopped going to local events and turned the channel to something else when Raw came on.

I must admit though, I had fun at the Sullivan County War. It was good to be among my fellow wrestling fans, to hear them cheer for the good guy and curse the heel and all his underhanded shenanigans. To watch the young bucks square off against the aging veterans last Saturday night felt comfortable to me. It felt right.

I might just have to make a habit of it once again. It’s true, it’s true.

Matthew Lane covers Kingsport government for the Times News. Email him at mlane@timesnews.net.